The Best Wines to Serve With Thanksgiving Dinner, According to DC Experts

Local wine retailers offer pairing tips and bottle recommendations.

Photograph courtesy of Grand Cata.

The smorgasbord of food at Thanksgiving dinner can inspire fear in those tasked with choosing bottles of wine to uncork for the feast. We asked local wine shops for their tips on selecting a variety of excellent Turkey Day options.

A little bit of sweetness can go a long way.

Phil Bernstein from Addy Bassin’s MacArthur Beverages in the Palisades recommends a low-alcohol, off-dry style of German Riesling (Selbach Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Kabinett $30) that has great acidity to match something like cranberry sauce and just enough sweetness to help liven up the other dishes on the table. “I think it works nicely especially with the white meat,” he says. “Having a wine with a little bit of residual sugar helps to perk up the turkey flavor.” Not into Riesling? Bernstein also recommends a bottle of bubbles (Champagne Delamotte Brut $50) or a lighter-bodied red wine made from Gamay (Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly $28).

Look for fun pairings in unusual places.

Hiram Powers-Heaven of Brookland’s Wardman Wines is mixing up his offerings this year. One of the pairings that he’s excited about is not actually a wine at all. It’s a sparkling cider from Spain (Trabanco Poma Áurea Sparkling Cider $21) that he says will make an excellent addition to the Thanksgiving table. Another pick he’s looking forward to is a rosé from Northern Italy (Farina Bardolino Chiaretto Rosé $18). “It has some nice minerality to it, some nice acidity,” he says. “Rosé is wonderful because it is versatile, and that versatility isn’t just for summer.” Powers-Heaven also suggests bringing along a bottle of crowd-pleasing Chardonnay from Sonoma County in California (Pali Wine Co. Charm Acres Chardonnay $24).

Look for wines with food versatility. 

“There [are] so many different things that can end up on the table depending on what it is that your family or friends bring,” says Warren Leonard from Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park. He recommends bottles that can appeal to different tastes and have multiple pairing functions. One is a Grüner Veltliner from Austria (Franz Hirtzberger Grüner Veltliner Rotes Tor Federspiel $35). “What’s unique about Grüner is that if somebody likes green-bean casserole or if people like Brussels sprouts or other brassicas, it’s a white wine that pairs quite well with more green vegetables that are typically a hard wine pairing.” Leonard also suggests an aromatic bottle of Gewürztraminer from Alsace (Domaine Schoffit Gewürztraminer Harth Cuvee Caroline $24) and a food-friendly Gamay from Beaujolais (Pierre-Marie Chermette Fleurie ‘Les Garants’ $30).

Find balance with what you’re serving.

For Grand Cata’s Pedro Rodríguez and Julio Robledo, looking for synergy between what you’re pouring and what you’re serving is essential. “We always ask people what they like and, secondly, we’re looking for balance: things that can complement and enhance,” Rodríguez says. They like a Pinot Noir (Familia Cavallieri Badilla T3RZO Pinot Noir $30) from the Malleco Valley in Chile, which Robledo says is “perfect for white meat, game, and has a little bit more body if you’re going to be adventurous,” Robledo says.  “We know that there are some people that don’t like turkey [and] they go with a big steak for Thanksgiving. For them, this one pairs very well with a steak,” Robledo continues. They also recommend a full-bodied rosé that home chefs can sip while cooking (La Casa Vieja Rosado $39), or an aromatic, textural Argentinean blend of Riesling and Pinot Blanc with a little bit of skin-contact (Vallisto Extremo Viejas Blancas $29). All three wines are available at Grand Cata’s locations in Shaw and at La Cosecha.

Peter Njoroge
Editorial Fellow